Gig.U efforts target bandwidth upgrade for university communities

Twenty-nine universities across the country say they are working to accelerate the deployment of high-speed network services and applications in the United States. In partnership with their local communities, the universities have formed the University Community Next Generation Innovation Project (Gig.U) under the leadership of Blair Levin, executive director, Elise Kohn, program director, and Sherry Gelfand, program administrator. Blair Levin was the executive director of the effort to create the Omnibus Broadband Initiative, the national broadband plan developed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Twenty-nine universities across the country say they are working to accelerate the deployment of high-speed network services and applications in the United States. In partnership with their local communities, the universities have formed the University Community Next Generation Innovation Project (Gig.U) under the leadership of Blair Levin, executive director, Elise Kohn, program director, and Sherry Gelfand, program administrator. Blair Levin was the executive director of the effort to create the Omnibus Broadband Initiative, the national broadband plan developed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Research universities depend on high-speed networks to educate, collaborate, and innovate, say Gig.U organizers. However, the networks they use do not provide the connectivity needed, and the current market does not plan to upgrade the networks, they assert. High-speed networks must be implemented into surrounding communities to increase the pace at pace at which advances made on campus can be tested and applied off campus, argue the Gig.U leaders.

Gig.U will work with current and potential network service providers, as well as others, to develop next-generation test beds in university communities. The organization plans to issue a request for information (RFI) within the next 90 days to current and potential service providers seeking new approaches to bring the described networks to communities. A tailored request for proposals to enter into agreements to deploy the networks in the next several years is then expected to be issued from the information gathered.

Gig.U leaders believe that university communities have characteristics that both lower the cost of deployment and increase demand, which make them larger targets for next generation network deployments.

The universities in Gig.U include:

Arizona State UniversityUniversity of Kentucky
Case Western Reserve UniversityUniversity of Louisville
Colorado State UniversityUniversity of Maryland
Duke UniversityUniversity of Michigan
George Mason UniversityUniversity of Missouri
Howard UniversityUniversity of Montana
Indiana UniversityUniversity of New Mexico
Michigan State UniversityUniversity of North Carolina
North Carolina State UniversityUniversity of South Florida
Penn State UniversityUniversity of Virginia
University of AlaskaUniversity of Washington
University of ChicagoVirginia Tech
University of FloridaWake Forest University
University of HawaiiWest Virginia University
University of Illinois

Rey Ramsey, president of TechNet, a political network of CEOs and senior executives that promotes the growth of technology-led innovation, says, "The University Community Next Generation Innovation Project is precisely the kind of effort needed to cultivate innovation in America. Broadband is an essential building block for entrepreneurs who create new companies and more jobs. By accelerating the build-out of gigabit broadband, this project sows the seeds for the next wave of innovation that will foster economic opportunity and social advancement for all Americans."

Rob Atkinson of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, an institute that works to promote technological advances, adds, “America has been at the forefront of the digital revolution since its inception and it’s critical that we remain there. Building and using ‘testbeds’ for ultra-high speed broadband networking in and around research universities is a key way for America to stay at the forefront. The University Community Next Generation Innovation Project offers a great way forward to start to build and test these new networks.”

Gig.U organizers say they will build on ideas and movements already in place, such as the organizing done through the Google Community Fiber Initiative, to create an environment in which private risk capital has motivation to supply next-generation services. The project leaders assert they will combine lessons learned from Economic Development Zones, Spectrum Auctions, and other successful initiatives as well to achieve their mission.

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